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Thu 6 Feb 2020 02:00 PM

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Indian carriers may launch dedicated agri cargo services to Gulf region

The plan follows Indian Budget announcement on 'Krishi Udaan' (farm flights), a subsidised scheme for farmers to export their produce internationally

Indian carriers may launch dedicated agri cargo services to Gulf region

SpiceJet, which has a separate freighter service – SpiceXpress – already operates agri products-focussed cargo services to Hong Kong from Guwahati- the capital of the northeast Indian state of Assam. Image: Boeing

Indian budget carrier SpiceJet is considering commencing cargo flights for agri products to Dubai and other major cities in the Middle East under a new scheme – ‘Krishi Udaan (farm flights) – proposed in the Indian Union Budget 2020.

Under the proposed ‘Krishi Udaan’ scheme, India’s civil aviation ministry is to introduce a subsidised scheme for farmers to export their produce internationally.

“We are excited about the scheme and will seriously consider cargo operations under it to places such as Dubai,” SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh has said.

Aviation industry sources said IndiGo, another Indian budget airline is also likely to launch cargo services for agri products under the scheme to the Gulf region.

IndiGo officials were not available for comments on this.

Officials with Air India Express said the airline will not be looking at any dedicated services for agri cargo, as Air India does not have separate freighter operations.  

“Our cargo operations are limited to the excess space available in our passenger flights and therefore it won’t be feasible to look at dedicated services under the proposed scheme,” a senior Air India Express official told Arabian Business. Air India Express operates bulk of its flights to the Gulf region.

Industry sources said the Gulf region will be among the focus areas for Indian carriers for the cargo services under the ‘Krishi Udaan” scheme because of the large presence of expat Indians there.

The industry expects the demand for Indian agri produces – vegetables, fruits and other farm produces - to witness significant growth if their prices come down due to the subsidised transportation scheme.

Government sources said the civil aviation ministry is currently in the process of working out the modalities and details of the ‘Krishi Udaan’ scheme and that it may take some time before the scheme is rolled out.

​SpiceJet, which has a separate freighter service – SpiceXpress – already operates agri products-focussed cargo services to Hong Kong from Guwahati- the capital of the northeast Indian state of Assam.

SpiceXpress, which has increased its fleet size to four in the second quarter of FY20, currently operates scheduled cargo services on the Mumbai-Sharjah-Mumbai sector, among a number of international and domestic sectors.

Besides, it also operates chartered cargo flight services in the Gulf region for transporting livestock from Mumbai and some other Indian cities.

Aviation industry analysts said for successful take off of the proposed ‘Krishi Udaan’ scheme, the entire commercial-logistics framework – starting from farmer cooperatives/producer organisations to buying agents in overseas centres and shipping agencies to facilitate the transportation of goods - has to be set up.

“Airlines are only a conduit for cargo services. The entire selling-buying linkage and shipping agencies for this have to be set up in the first place for smooth take off of this scheme,” a senior executive with an Indian carrier who did not wish to be identified, told Arabian Business.

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